The red hot heat of AI

The sheer heat of AI. Billions of parameters whirling through billions of words to process with white-hot speed. Big Tech maximizes revenue and power through maximizing heat, maximizing material use, maximizing waste production. Software and hardware are eating the world and crapping mining waste, energy waste, data waste and e-waste. AI ravenous, intense chips, each one consuming thousands of kilowatts a year, with millions of them being produced. The sheer heat and energy of AI. Ravenous. Exajoules.

AI comes striding from a technological culture of fast and furious performance, efficiency fetishism, and the innovation cult. Fed by a complicit media to a still tech-starstruck public, everyone wants some of the performance, the efficiency, innovation and progress. Enraptured by the Growth Death Cult, accelerating forever past all Nature’s boundaries and guardrails. More and faster chips, developed at frenzied speed, chasing performance and causing Mount Everests of mining waste and Great Walls of China of e-waste. Super-efficiency when it comes to larger and larger bulging and overflowing datasets. Water, energy and materials are infinitely and instantly available with prices approaching zero, and all true costs charged to generous Mother Nature. Churning through materials is seen as positive, part of the innovative, creative process, part of inevitable progress.

The world of modern technology is made up of hype cycles, and AI is simply the latest chapter, another spin of the wheel. It’s a frenzied race to make the quick kill, increase profitability and shareholder value, and nothing can be allowed to get in the way, until, of course, the next great rock ’n’ roll technology swindle comes along. Those who dare raise issues of safety or ethics are first undermined, then fired, defunded or otherwise cancelled. States salivate, offering tax breaks, dirt cheap energy and water. They’ll do anything not to be left out. Is this wise? Are you serious? There is too much money to be made right now—right this very moment—to allow such trivialities and silly questions to be asked, let alone answered. Acceleration forever. And as AI explodes, there is even less time to ask about what good it is, actually. What’s it’s actual use? (Other than for scams, spam, destroying democracy, and advertising, of course.) Ethics teams are either decimated or gotten rid of entirely. Teams that are there to control lies and misinformation are weakened or replaced by AI policing AI. Nothing can be allowed to get in the way of the growth super-gravy cybertruck. Acceleration forever. The environment and society are externalities. Innovate or die. Progress to the bitter end.

Things move so fast, adding a Germany or Japan worth of electricity demand to the electricity grid every couple of years – or is it now every couple of months? Acceleration forever. Software and hardware eating Nature. Such thirsty work. Every time you interact with AI, it drinks a glass of water. The poor must go thirsty so that AI can drink the freshest, cleanest water. Drinking twenty times more than those old-fashioned Google searches used to drink. That’s nothing. Isn’t China’s AI drinking as much water as the entire population of South Korea? Or was that last week? Is it now drinking twice or ten times as much? “It's a recipe for disaster,” Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement organizer Jake Grobe told Futurism about Microsoft’s water usage in west Des Moines. “ChatGPT is not a necessity for human life, and yet we are literally taking water to feed a computer.”

Podcast: World Wide Waste
Interviews with prominent thinkers outlining what can be done to make digital as sustainable as possible.
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